Wikileaks, GMOs, and Kenya

One of Kenya’s main newspapers, the Daily Nation, published an article this week highlighting a Wikileaks cable that sheds light on the passing of the contentious Biosafety Act of 2009, which provides a framework for governing “modern biotechnology” (ie, Kenya will finally allow the production and sale of Genetically Modified Organisms). Unsurprisingly, USAID (the US Agency for International Development) used financial and technical support to “speed up and overcome opposition to the Bill.”

The Biosafety Act was being negotiated during the years that I lived in Nairobi, Kenya, and rumors were constantly swirling about Monsanto’ financial support of key Parliamentarians, of America’s strong arm tactics, etc. What has been brought to light through this cable is not particularly cloak-and-dagger – USAID created linkages among national institutions and helped sponsor a conference. Exactly the sort of thing its Programme for Biosafety Systems was meant to do.

Nonetheless, it was detailed in a Wikileaks cable, and that makes it news. And I have to admit, this makes me happy. Investigative reporters across Africa have been mining the Wikileaks diplomatic cables for American perspectives on the dirty secrets of African governments – Pambazuka.org has done a great job encourgaing and compiling these reports.They may not make the news in the US, but these revelations on internal African affairs have produced a constant stream of unsettling, nettling reports. On the whole, it seems like it’s often things everyone knows – yes, the ANC is a complete mess; yes, overseas aid money is often stolen by corrupt regimes – but the cables give these stories focus and a weight they otherwise wouldn’t have.

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